The Film of Her

Available here as part of the Bill Morrison: Collected Works (1996-2013) box set.

"Morrison's THE FILM OF HER is based on the story of a Library of Congress clerk who saved a vaultful of paper reels, documenting the earliest days of cinema, from the incinerator. A gorgeous tribute to the art form's origins, this 12-minute short is anchored by the memory of this man, who has had fixed in his mind since boyhood the image of a woman he saw in an early porn film. THE FILM OF HER is what drives the clerk to save the films, this collective memory, and it also serves as the focal point for Morrison's thoughts on personal experience and the happenstance of history. Drawing comparisons between the primordial ooze and the elemental flicker of a light projector, or between Lumiere babies, magic a la Melies, and the gears of industry, Morrison reminds us that even the most brilliant and brave creations begin as cherished ideas nurtured in dedicated imaginations and subjected to the whims of chance."
—Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, LA Weekly

"A contemporary standout...Bill Morrison's The Film of Her deftly combines documentary, fiction, and found-footage collage to tell the story of the unsung clerk who saved the Library of Congress' paper print collection from certain destruction."—Amy Taubin, The Village Voice

"Morrison's masterpiece may be his latest work, The Film of Her, a love lyric to cinema spunout of the true tale of a Library of Congress clerk, one Howard Walls who in 1939 single-handedly prevented truckloads of the very earliest films from being burnt for space. In Morrison's fantasia, the clerk is reimagined as a dreamer besotted with the visage of the star of an early porno flick, motivated into archival overdrive in hopes of seeing 'the film of her' again...."—Gregg Rickman, SF Weekly

"If the only existing record of past events is destroyed, what happens to their historical representation? This film takes off from a particular moment in 1939 when a clerk at the Library of Congress discovered the paper print collection in the archives, saving it from incineration. Scores of images are rescued, events remain documented, and history is preserved, including a short piece called The Film of Her. Or is it? Which film is the real The Film of Her is left up for grabs in this lyrical experimental documentary."—Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor, Pacific Film Archives

Other Ways to Watch


Available online from:

Colleges, Universities, Government Agencies, Hospitals, and Corporations
This title is available for streaming only.

Available for educational streaming from:


A Film by Bill Morrison
Music by Bill Frisell and Henryk Gorecki

Select Accolades

  • Winner, Gold Award, Experimental Film, New York Expo Film Festival 1997
  • Rotterdam International Film Festival 1997
  • Stockholm International Film Festival 1997
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival 1997
  • Margaret Mead Film Festival 1997


This five-disc set comprises 16 works by filmmaker and multimedia artist Bill Morrison.

Bill Morrison | 2014 | 455 minutes | Color | English

A legendary cinematic exploration of the beauty of decaying archival footage by experimental film artist Bill Morrison. Music by Michael Gordon.

Bill Morrison | 2012 | 67 minutes | Color | English

A sumptuous cine-poem created from decaying archival footage. Music by Michael Gordon.

Bill Morrison | 2004 | 8 minutes | Color

A trolley traveling over the Brooklyn Bridge in 1899 helped create the footage underlying Bill Morrison's neo-travelogue. Music by Todd Reynolds.

Bill Morrison | 2012 | 9 minutes | Color